Jowd couldn’t tear his thoughts away from the events of this absurd night as he and Lynne raced to the Junkyard. He knew that call had not been Cabanela. There was more to it. Earlier in the night he might have rejoiced at the man calling for his execution. Now he knew he was wrong. Now he knew there were far more important things at stake.
Now he knew where Cabanela stood, where he never stopped standing.
Jowd had suspected… no, he knew. He knew since he stared at the so-called pocket watch in the courtyard. It was only that he hadn’t wanted to believe anything else except that Cabanela had moved on, that he cared for nothing except his position and power, that he was safely away and another who could happily forget Jowd and leave him buried.
That was how it was meant to be. That was how it was supposed to be.
But then, Jowd’s ‘supposed to be’s seemed to be wrong every step of the way. A ghost started his downfall this night and Cabanela merrily continued it with a single tossed present that was both ironic, and given the situation in poor taste. It suited him, but wasn’t Cabanela’s style until bearing witness to deeper intentions he couldn’t face.
After all, what was he to think as they faced each other, as Cabanela suddenly claimed near forgetfulness as if that fooled anyone? Jowd still recognised the look of sudden realization he’d seen all too many times in the distant past – a look that always led to some revelation and sweeping declaration that, though he would never tell him, was generally right nine times out of ten.
What was he to think of this declaration contained within the shell of a pocket watch? Message clear; message received was a more complicated matter.
How long was Jowd to work with him before he learned Cabanela never followed expectations (misplaced or otherwise) or should haves? Foolish.
How long before he remembered that Cabanela wasn’t so subtle despite claims to the contrary? Five years and the ‘old friends’ could drop out so casually? He wanted to pass it off as a taunt; it would be so easy if he didn’t know it ran much deeper. After all this time the underlying vein of sincerity in Cabanela’s words was clear even to his dulled ears.
He had been tempted to bring it up as they made their leisurely way to the Justice Minister’s office (and don’t you have more important things to do? More impooortant than capturing an escaped convict, baby?), but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to. Nor to his discomfort did he really need to. He could hear the conversation as if they were really having it:
“I don’t knooow what you’re talkin’ about, my old friend.”
“You’ve just done it again.”
“Might be wooorth givin’ that some thought, baby.”
He had given it some thought. The problem was the thoughts didn’t mesh with what he held on to so ardently. Where was the Inspector in white with a spotless record? Where was the image he clung to in the comfort of knowing Cabanela was lost to him now? Clearly prison rumours left much to be desired. Everything and nothing changed since that day they sat across from one another at the interrogation room table, backs rigid and knuckles white. Words shot back and forth and a threat, a promise. “I will find the truth.”
When did he ever know Cabanela to go back on his word and what made him think this time would be any different? All through this night and after all this time Cabanela still worked with him in a one-sided partnership. He snorted to himself as Sissel’s words came back to him. Misguided in all matters it seemed.
As they approached the junkyard office, Lynne sped ahead, but Jowd slowed. Whether it was under the weight of his thoughts or caution he couldn’t say. What would they find in there?
At the door he heard the confirmations of what he now knew – they never left him. Gods above what had he done to deserve them? Then Cabanela’s voice, with an unfamiliar note of bitterness:
“…but my body gave up on me at the critical moment. It’s like a cruel joke.”
A joke indeed. What a ridiculous and convoluted state of affairs. What else was there to do but laugh at this entire night when he built up the will to join them inside?
He passed by Cabanela, the man’s exclamation of his name still ringing in his ears, not quite meeting his gaze, his eyes sliding over his sprawled and battered form. What happened? What had he gone through since rushing away - more thoughts that were too heavy and required too much attention for the small amount of time they had.
And so he passed his thanks to Lynne before another old friend called him. Had no one followed the plan?
As the comfortable weight of his old coat settled on his shoulders the slowly growing spark that started in the Justice Minister’s office flared. This was his fight now. He would not leave Kamila again and old ghosts needed to be put to rest. Cabanela did more than his fair share even if he so loved the spotlight. It was his turn and his mess alone to clean up. Yet, never quite alone, he thought, transferring the watch to his coat pocket. How typical of the man to be left out yet still manage to keep his hands in the pot. Cabanela said he always swooped in at the last second, however it was Cabanela who always had to get the last word.
When Jowd passed by, still not quite daring to look at him directly, he managed to catch the smile and heard the satisfaction in his voice.
“Good luuuck, my old friend.”
When Jowd stopped at the door and lifted the watch it was, for a brief spell, as though the five year wall was no longer a barrier between them, as if for just a moment it never happened. They had each other’s backs as always. It was time to finish this.
Cabanela couldn’t tear his gaze away from Jowd as the coat was donned. Finally. Finally he could really see him in there after all the dropped comments and prodding. Are you still in there? I’ve still got your back, baby.
Anything to pull him out of that shell only for him to retreat again.
The night had certainly done its best to throw him for a loop down to the terrible minutes in the courtyard when he thought he failed in the final hour. It seemed Jowd won a last victory in the one competition Cabanela never wanted, only for the man to suddenly appear before him.
A quick turnabout step and they were back in the game.
A gift thrown his way and if that didn’t get the message across then Cabanela would know the man had truly lost his touch. Time. We’ve still got it. Let’s get this solved, shaaall we? I’m counting on you. Trust me.
As the night wore on he held back worries that Jowd really had gone rusty, or more painfully likely, simply didn’t care anymore. It wasn’t until he saw how fierce he looked in the Justice Minister’s office that he started to relax on that front again. There he was and better yet, there he was with a plan. The man clearly had an ace up his sleeve – how he got out of the prison had been a mystery. Perhaps it would play into things here? Cabanela hoped so. Original plans had gone straight out the window and now he improvised the dance each step of the way, watching his time run out all over again.
Your turn again, partner and another nudge. The chair was waiting (but you won’t meet it, that I can promise); what’s the plan? Show me that miiiracle of yours. He never expected a ghost, but the fellow’s help was most welcome indeed.
Now here they were and here was his old friend truly back the way he was supposed to be and about time too.
When Jowd passed by to exit Cabanela’s smile widened at his thanks for the gift.
“Glaaad you like it.”
Now go on and finish this. We still have work to do, baby.
Only once Jowd and Lynne were gone did Cabanela let himself sink deeper into the chair, his fire fading, while the professor’s voice washed over him as he called for an ambulance. His eyes fell shut against the exhaustion and pain threatening to pull him back down. As much as he hated to admit it every bone and muscle screamed you’re done.
He spent so long trying to save one man and spent the night trying to save more for all his efforts to go in vain, instead having to rely on a ghost with an all too familiar mask. Now he was stuck in this wreck of a body with no way of knowing what was going on. Stuck in the worst of waits only made easier knowing the best were on it.
“But a joke is a joke. You might as well laugh!” Jowd had said in such a typical manner it made Cabanela want to simultaneously rejoice and toss him back in his cell for one more night. Jerk.
Excepting the fact it felt like his ribs were trying to claw their way out a laugh did almost seem a good idea if he thought it would taste less bitter. Who thought it possible his brand of humour would get even worse in prison? Who thought he’d be so glad to hear it?
The blow was softened in the knowledge that Jowd had this now. Swooping in was most welcome – he only wished they could have finished the dance together, but his part was at an end. He gave Jowd the tools he needed to close the case. It was the end that mattered now, not the how. It was long past due for Jowd to pull his weight anyway. He could even take credit.
Their success was guaranteed. Trust was never a question.